Would an ideology by any other name stink as badly?

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Mexico City. I took a taxi to my destination and, as it is customary, I engaged in small talk with the driver. After a while, the conversation turned to local politics, traffic, and women.

The taxi driver must have been in his fifties and from a low class urban background. He was from an older generation, since he revealed he valued sex and a hot meal at night and he thought it was worth working long hours in traffic for those benefits. When I pointed out to him that younger, urban men were not marrying as much as they did in the past, he said something that caught my attention:

“I have no respect for those slackers who prefer to jack off because they don’t have the balls to support a woman.”

I changed the topic to avoid an overt disagreement, which is a bit of a sin in Mexico’s culture. On the way to my destination, I reflected on what the driver had just said. Apparently, this guy hadn’t received the memo; in modern Mexico, getting married and supporting a wife didn’t earn you sex or a hot meal as much as it used in the past, and young men were reacting appropriately.

I have noticed that as Mexico becomes more prosperous and the middle class grows, feminism starts to rise, very much like in first world countries. The difference is that the “f” word hasn’t become popular in Mexico and almost nobody uses it. In fact, Mexico, being a practical day-today culture, doesn’t deal much with abstract concepts. If you ask a person if they identify themselves as a feminist, you’ll get a puzzled look. People here identify as fathers, mothers, taxi drivers, engineers, or whatever their station in life is.

Yet it’s undeniable that feminist policies and thought have started to take root in Mexico, especially in its big cities. The first time I really paid attention to this phenomenon was in last year’s election, when I saw a billboard from a female candidate to the presidency, Margarita Zavala. Zavala is the wife of former president Felipe Calderon and ran, among other things, on a pro-women platform, offering the first female president. Doesn’t this sound familiar?

In any case, unlike her American counterpart, Zavala had almost no experience and no talent whatsoever and after not being able to take on the criticism and mockery that running for president involves, she ended her bid a few months later.

Since then, I’ve paid attention to how feminist policies, and how laws and marriage, have made marriage and relationships less attractive to men. This week, I read in the news that divorces with separation of property (that is, each party gets to keep the property and goods they own), will be evaluated by a judge that will assign up to 50% of the property taking into consideration domestic roles and uneven power levels. A couple of days ago, a political party also proposed a law that will allow “preventive prison” in order to prevent the murder of women. This means that you can be sent in prison with just an accusation or a strong suspicion that you might murder a woman. Also, another proposed law wants to make women unable to retract themselves after accusing a man of sexual harassment, which means that even if a woman admits that she lied or was wrong, the prosecution will continue. And of course, the law codifies “feminicide” as the murder of a woman on the basis of gender. The existence of this crime in law implies that the lives of women are more valuable than the lives of men. To be honest, there is a lot of nuance in these laws, but you get my point.

But that’s not really what’s scaring young men away, as they don’t pay attention to this type of news. What’s happening is that relationships are not working for them anymore. They saw their fathers work their ass off and engage in courtship, but unlike the past, the benefits of those don’t exist anymore. You don’t get to come home to a clean house and hot meal anymore. You don’t get to have sex anymore. And while women certainly are free from not having to perform those tasks, men are also free to not engage, especially as Mexican men are still expected to pay for dates and support the family if they get married.

Take my friend Sam for example. He used to be in a relationship where he was expected to pay for dates and he even paid for a trip abroad together. He also had to plan each week’s date and the girlfriend would judge if each week’s plan was good enough. In return (yes, they actually negotiated this), on Sundays, she would prepare him breakfast and they’d spend the day at her place so that he wouldn’t have to spend money on that day. As it turned out, she was always out of food and they would go to the supermarket to get groceries, which he would pay for. It’s not surprising that when my friend lost his job while being in debt for an apartment he bought, he immediately got rid of his biggest expense: his girlfriend.

Men who are single and unmarried are also starting to walk away from the workplace. A relative of mine, a high level quality consultant and also a man from a previous generation, told me that single men “just don’t care anymore.” What he means is that unmarried men aren’t motivated to work hard even for a higher income and he attributes it to laziness. But why would they? With a useful university degree, which they can get for free, they can buy a car and pay their rent or even buy a small apartment with a relatively simple job, with the added benefit of not having the burden of student debt like their American counterparts. Single men also see that their married co-workers, who almost always have children soon after their marriage, are always struggling with money and don’t have the time or are unable to go have fun, like they do.

On the other hand, young, middle class women are complaining that good men have disappeared and the few men available are not up to their standards. They delay marriage until their biological clock starts to tick, at which point they marry the best man they can find in short notice or just the one that’s available, to avoid being childless. Then complain about their husbands until they eventually divorce them.

So, feminism might not be known by name for most Mexicans, but its effects have started to show: proliferation of single women with children (referred to jokingly as “warrior mothers” or “fighter mothers” because of their self-proclaimed “fight against the harshness of life” or “fight for the life of their children”), single women who have trouble finding a man that meets their standards, and men who have never heard about MGTOWs going their own way. The situation is still far from what’s happening in the United States, Japan, or Europe, but the shift has started.

Finally, who are the few ones who do identify as feminists and use the “f” word? From what I’ve seen, self-proclaimed Mexican feminists fall into one of three groups. The first and the smallest is actresses or singers who have achieved some sort of financial success and are out of touch with the realities of the poor people they portray in telenovelas. The second one is middle class women with some sort of corporate career, typically in human resources, accounting, or purchasing. They tend to be divorced with a single child, whom they spoil. And lastly, unattractive, fat women, typically low or lower-middle class, who have failed in both their careers and relationships and are either childless or have two or more children of different fathers.

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